01/12/2010 12:00AM

Training resumes as Oaklawn opener nears

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Palanka City may make her first start since March in Saturday?s feature.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Things are beginning to heat up.

Oaklawn Park was able to open its track for training for the first time in five days on Tuesday afternoon, resulting in a steady stream of horses preparing for its Friday opener. Training had been disrupted by a winter blast that sent regional temperatures into the 20s and led to the cancellation of racing at tracks as far south as Houston and Louisiana.

But the weather forecast for Oaklawn's opening day looks promising. Temperatures could reach the low 50s, with a small chance of showers. It will be a welcome turnaround from the frigid conditions that have gripped the Southwest since last Thursday.

"The forecast looks ideal for opening weekend," said Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope.

Entries for Oaklawn's first program of the season were to be taken on Wednesday. The track will have an extended, four-day opening weekend, with stakes scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Monday. In all, Oaklawn will run 54 days through April 10, the date of the track's richest race, the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

The first prep for the Arkansas Derby comes Monday, when the $100,000 Smarty Jones for 3-year-olds at a mile will be decided. It is one of three local stepping-stones to the Arkansas Derby and it is expected to draw between six to nine starters, said Pope.

Oaklawn's stakes program gets underway Friday with the $50,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies, and interest in the race is high. Among those expected to start is Shotgun Gulch, winner of both the $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial and $60,000 Oklahoma Classics Lassie at Remington Park.

"If we can get 17 or 18 [entries], we're going to split it," Pope said of the Dixie Belle.

The feature Saturday is the $50,000 American Beauty. Multiple stakes winner Palanka City could make her first start since last March. She won both the Spring Fever and Carousel stakes here last year..

Oaklawn has several promotions planned for opening weekend. The traditional 50-cent corned beef sandwich sale has been moved from Friday to Saturday to make it available to a larger crowd. Monday, there is a Rachel Alexandra bobblehead giveaway while supplies last. A leading candidate for Horse of the Year, she was based last year at Oaklawn.

She's Our Annie sidelined

She's Our Annie would have been seeking her sixth straight win Saturday in the American Beauty. Instead, she has been sidelined.

She's Our Annie came out of her win in last month's $60,000 Esplanade at Fair Grounds with a slab fracture to her right knee, said her trainer, Jinks Fires.

She's Our Annie underwent surgery at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. She will soon head to Florida to recuperate. Fires said follow-up X-rays will be taken in 60 days and at that point more will be known about her status.

"At present, it looks like we've got a good shot of coming back," he said.

She's Our Annie won her maiden last year at Oaklawn and proceeded to win the $50,000 Prima Donna there, the $52,000 Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs, and the Esplanade on Dec. 19. She is a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro and races for her breeder, Destiny Oaks.

* Oaklawn will not be open for simulcasting on Thursday in order to prepare the grandstand for live racing Friday.